Off hours: Panache chief executive happy as lifelong learner

Vishaal Shah, 33, is the chief executive of Panache, a light manufacturing firm. The 33-year-old from Kenya studied accounting and management at Cardiff University before returning to the family business in Kenya – the largest stationery manufacturer in the region. He then decided to take on a “bigger challenge”, moving to Dubai 10 years ago to launch his own business.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

Dining and spending time with the family to unwind. During the cooler months, if I get an opportunity I love to drive off to explore new places.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

Currently it is reading and learning about various management styles and practices. This curiosity helps me to to improve the manner in which I work. As humans, we are learning machines. We are most alive and functioning closest to our potential when we are learning, adapting, adjusting, and finding new ways, approaches and techniques to improve our lives, or the lives of others, in some way. The day we stop learning we are as good as dead.

What can’t you live without?

My iPhone. It is my office in my pocket.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

If we were to define success, it would be as the achievement of an action within a specified period of time, or within a specified parameter. Success can also mean completing an objective or reaching a goal. It can be achieved within the workplace, or in an individual’s personal life. For example, if an individual’s personal goal is to be accepted in a new career, success would occur after the individual has been officially accepted into his or her new place of employment. Thus I would say there is no secret to success. We are all successful every day, every minute. One quote from Walt Disney which I live by is: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it”. Nothing is impossible.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Looking at the products or services that one is to offer to clients in a way of, not what would benefit them but how will it benefit their clients. Secondly it’s extremely important to have a clear vision of where one wants to go in five years, 20 years and even 50 years down the line. Another key thing is to know your purpose and your passion. Why are you starting the business, what’s going to get you out of bed and make you run? Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses are also key so that the team can be hired to fill those weaknesses. I often refer to a key learning from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, which states that the difference between good companies and great companies is that great companies have the right people on the right seat in the bus. Also understanding numbers and running your business with numbers is extremely crucial.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

While some people try to deal with the stresses of entrepreneurship by setting up a strict routine that covers the bare minimum – eating, sleeping and perhaps a little exercise – I am not able to share my own routine because I don’t have one – I try to make every day unique. If you love life and live it to the fullest, there are limitless ways to spend your time. It is already a great balance. One of the key qualities an entrepreneur must be able to call upon is flexibility – after all, you can never be certain what the next day is likely to throw at you. If you are starting your own business then the chances are that you will be carrying out a number of jobs, making the responsibilities which you are accountable for far greater than most.

How do you relax after the working day?

I actually don’t think any day for me is a working day. Every day is a game. However, other then playing that game I enjoy cooking or reading, which gives me that relaxing switch-off.

If you weren’t running Panache what else would you be doing?

I have a passion for growing and developing organisations, so I would be helping other entrepreneurs to look at their businesses from a different perspective, and working on strategies on various ways of accelerating growth for them.

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